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Q&A Series with Ben Morris, President of UMB Healthcare Services

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Part Two: Ann Mond Johnson examines how employers can effectively maximize their employees’ health care benefits

Repeal and replacement of the ACA didn’t happen, now what? UMB Healthcare Services’ Strategic Advisory Council, made up of five leading industry experts in a variety of health care, benefits and research-related fields, will discuss the uncertainty surrounding health care and how to manage health care costs in our April 27th webinar. Gearing up for the webinar, we asked members of our Strategic Advisory Council questions about their outlook for the future of health care and tips for managing health care costs. 

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In this Q&A series, I talk with Ann Mond Johnson, health care innovator and executive, about how employers can effectively maximize employees’ health care benefits, make wellness a key aspect of company culture and the future of making health care easier to understand and access.

What should employers be doing to effectively maximize their employees’ health care benefits?

Employees can maximize their benefit dollars when they understand what they’re selecting and are able to choose benefits that are most appropriate for them and their families. After all, people don’t want to buy health insurance; they want security for themselves and their families. They need protection against a financial disaster. Employers can help employees make better health care selections by providing comprehensive education on benefits and how to use benefits year-round. By engaging in the health care conversation throughout the year, employers can help employees make informed, thoughtful decisions.

How can employers make wellness a part of their culture?

Everything we’ve seen and read indicates that the most effective organizations “practice what they preach,” starting at the top of the organization. It doesn’t have to be very involved or expensive. Given that there are five big contributors to good health (tobacco, food choices, BMI, physical activity and unmanaged stress) focusing on at least one of these can likely make an impact. Employers can encourage a culture of wellness for their employees by providing useful resources such as timely and educational communications, sponsoring teams of employees for local races and having healthy food choices in on premise facilities.

Is health care going to become more complicated or easier for consumers?

It is imperative to make it easier for people to access and understand health care. But what does that really mean? First off, it needs to be easier for consumers to make the right decisions about their benefits, starting with health insurance. Second, they should understand how to make decisions that impact their health. Employees also need to understand what constitutes reliable sources of information. Finally, since we’re consumers until we become patients, we need more insights and transparency about the choices we make when we become patients – about drugs, physicians, treatments and facilities.

Are there any other topics or points that you want to touch on?

There is a growing acknowledgement of a close link between physical, emotional and financial health. Employers have the opportunity to help guide and encourage employees to make informed decisions about their general wellness. Offering programs that look at overall wellness is a great way to encourage the happiness and health of employees.

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Q&A with President of UMB Healthcare Services Ben Morris and Jen Benz, CEO of Benz Communication

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Part One: Q&A with President of UMB Healthcare Services Ben Morris and Jen Benz, CEO of Benz Communication

Healthcare is one of the most important benefits employees will take advantage of in their careers, but many employees don’t think about or fully understand their benefits until they have a situation where they need to use them.

President of UMB Healthcare Services Ben Morris recently asked Jen Benz, CEO of Benz Communication a few questions on how employers can help employees better understand their healthcare options and benefits.

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How should employers be talking to their employees about healthcare benefits?

Employers are uniquely positioned to help employees understand their healthcare benefits. A big part of that is helping them understand the different options that are available to them. This means not only helping them choose the program that will benefit them the most physically, but also financially and emotionally. In our experience, we’ve found this is best done by engaging employees in a concerted communication effort using three tried and true tactics:

  1. Get online.
    Providing a single website for healthcare related questions, and a streamlined benefits website gives employees and family members access to valuable content. Having a secure vendor website also makes it easy to take action and complete transactions. This way, employees can get the information they need and act by visiting just one website.
  2. Engage with employees and their families year-round.
    Employees need information year-round on how to use benefits effectively. Believe it or not, many companies still talk to employees about their benefits only once a year. However, as we’ve seen, healthcare laws can and do change, and providing constant communication about how new and evolving rules and regulations could affect employees becomes even more important.
  3. Measure and improve.
    How effective is your communication? Look at web traffic, email click-through and open rates and meeting attendance. What’s your program participation and use? Gain a clear picture of communication effectiveness and gaps by looking at:

    • Health and wellness plan enrollment and participation
    • Preventive care, financial wellness program and employee assistance program utilization
    • Health and financial outcomes—for instance, biometric and claims data as well as retirement plan and HSA balances show where employees are doing well and where they’re still getting stuck.

You mentioned engaging with employees and their families year-round. What sort of conversations and educational opportunities can be used to engage employees?

When it comes to employees, one size most definitely does not fit all. You’ll learn more about employees as individuals by asking the questions that matter. You will also gain greater insight into what drives your people when you view them as individuals and focus your information-gathering activities accordingly. Once you know what matters most to them, you can start to build messages and education opportunities that better resonate, helping to educate them about the things they care about, which is a win/win.

Should employers focus conversations on health rather than benefit selection?

They’re both equally important conversations to have with employees. During enrollment, it’s the employer’s job to make things easy and clear—and make sure employees and their families are focused on what they need to do at that time.

In reality, the most important questions employees have are also the most basic: What’s new? What will it cost me? What do I have to do? Make sure you answer these questions in a simple and direct manner. A one-page enrollment “tip sheet” that lists changes, includes brief enrollment instructions, and tells employees and families where to go for details will usually suffice. Some employees want just the top-line info, while others want all the details. This one-page overview will be helpful for both groups.

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